Two tours of Stony Bat­ter tun­nels soon

Waiheke Marketplace - - Front Page - ROSE DAVIS

After be­ing closed for more than two years, the tun­nels at Stony Bat­ter will open for two tours in Novem­ber.

Is­land res­i­dent Ti­mothy Moon will open the doors to a realm he finds ‘‘fas­ci­nat­ing’’ on Novem­ber 19 and 25, as part of Wai­heke Walk­ing Fes­ti­val.

The re­ward for en­ter­ing the dark, un­der­ground maze is dis­cov­er­ing an en­vi­ron­ment to­tally dif­fer­ent from what peo­ple usu­ally en­counter, he said.

‘‘I would en­cour­age any­body who goes in there to turn off their lights and stand qui­etly and ex­pe­ri­ence the ab­sence of sight and sound. It’s some­thing to see com­plete black and hear ab­so­lutely noth­ing,’’ Moon said.

The tun­nels were built from 1943 in re­sponse to the threat of Ger­man and Ja­panese sub­marines dur­ing World War Two.

‘‘It was all hand dug and there are hun­dreds of me­tres of tun­nels and about six to eight large cham­bers.’’

The tours will be free and of­fer a guided walk and time to ex­plore in­de­pen­dently.

De­pend­ing on de­mand, more tours and mu­sic per­for­mances in the tun­nels could also be or­gan­ised by Moon, who has Depart­ment of Con­ser­va­tion (DOC) per­mis­sion to run tours un­til Christ­mas.

Moon was dis­ap­pointed when DOC closed the tun­nels in April 2015, be­cause of con­cerns about safety in the com­plex, which had been open for 60 years.

‘‘It’s a com­mu­nity as­set,’’ said Moon, an arche­ol­o­gist who has re­cently been project man­ager for a pre-his­toric tun­nel labyrinth in Bos­nia.

Stony Bat­ter Pro­tec­tion and Restora­tion So­ci­ety had per­mis­sion to take guided tours through the tun­nels from 2003 to 2011. Moon said the so­ci­ety left the tun­nels in an ‘‘amaz­ing’’ state.

How­ever, DOC Auck­land con­ser­va­tion ser­vices man­ager Keith Gell said in April 2015 a group could not find a guide and be­came se­ri­ously con­cerned when they strug­gled to find their way out of the tun­nels. Long-term is­land res­i­dent Sue Paw­ley had been giv­ing vis­i­tors ac­cess to the com­plex, but was over­seas at the time the tun­nels were closed.

DOC re­gards self-guided tours of the tun­nels as pos­ing an ‘‘in­ap­pro­pri­ate’’ risk to vis­i­tor safety, Gell said.

A new, long-term guided tour op­er­a­tion has still not been fi­nalised.

Ti­mothy Moon in a sub­ter­ranean cham­ber in East­ern Europe. SUP­PLIED

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